Two new polls from New Jersey colleges this week shed light on the Jan. 6, 2021 storming of the United States Capitol, and reactions to both it and the ensuing House of Representatives investigation from New Jerseyans and all Americans alike.

The Rutgers-Eagleton poll out Wednesday found that 56% of New Jersey residents consider the incident an "insurrection and a threat to democracy," while 16% felt it was an "unfortunate event" that is now in the past and should be de-emphasized.

Previously, a survey from Monmouth University on Tuesday said 38% of respondents across the country feel former President Donald Trump was directly responsible for the event, another 25% believe he at least encouraged those involved, and 33% think Trump did nothing wrong.

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While it was the first time Rutgers explored this line of questioning with regard to Jan. 6, Monmouth said the percentages it measured for placing the blame for the attack had not really changed since House hearings got underway.

Respondents seem to be looking at a bigger picture, according to Monmouth University Polling Institute director Patrick Murray.

"Democrats and Republicans have already decided what had happened even before this investigation started," Murray said. The only number that we've seen that's really moved at all is just overall faith in the American system of government."

Jan. 6 and the future of American democracy

In the Monmouth poll, 25% said the Congressional investigation has strengthened U.S. democracy, 34% said democracy has been weakened, and 35% felt no change.

But half of Americans now believe their system of government is "basically sound," which Murray said was the first time that level had been reached since before the 2020 election.

"The House committee really hasn't had an impact on changing anybody's mind about what happened, either on Jan. 6 or in the 2020 election overall," he said.

Was the 2020 election legitimate?

With regard to that election, Rutgers found 60% of New Jerseyans think Jan. 6 was an attempt to overturn a legitimate election and 25% said it was aimed at preventing a fraudulent election.

Democrats overwhelmingly leaned toward the former option while Republicans were more mixed, according to Ashley Koning, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling.

"Partisanship pervades basically every issue that we talk about nowadays, especially something like this that's viewing how we view our two-party system," Koning said. "Of course, we see that there are stark partisan divides when we analyze this. Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike are concerned about the future of American democracy."

To that point, majorities of Democrats (69%), independents (53%), and Republicans (51%) in the Garden State told Rutgers they are "very" concerned, Koning said.

Does New Jersey care about the Congressional investigation?

As the House investigation continues, most New Jerseyans have been following the hearings so far — 27% very much so, Rutgers found, and 29% somewhat.

But 16% are following a little less closely, and more than a quarter of the state (27%) hasn't been watching at all.

Update: NJ arrests in Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot

A year later, more than 20 people from New Jersey have been charged with involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com

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